Sommers, Pacifica

Sommers, Pacifica

I am a fourth year Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I study how invasive plants affect biodiversity. I am passionate both about science and the outdoors, and especially combining them. My Space Grant project allows me to pursue those interests in helping to inspire a new generation of explorers and scientists. 

Exposing students to science inquiry in outdoor settings increases their interest in and knowledge of scientific concepts. But despite the rich natural resources near Tucson, many Tucson students lack access to them due to financial and logistical limitations of their homes and schools. As a Fellow in the BioME GK-12 program last year, funded by the National Science Foundation, I spent several days every week in two seventh grade classrooms. I experienced first hand how important interactive and informal learning can be. I also understood better all the logistical challenges to moving science class outdoors. 

I have been a volunteer and certified trip leader for Tucson Inner City Outings (Tucson ICO), a nonprofit that provides outdoors experiences for low income youth of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, for three years. I have partnered with Tucson ICO and the Mount Lemmon Sky Center (MLSC) to develop, fundraise for, and lead at least four overnight multi-disciplinary experiences for middle school groups to Mount Lemmon. We explore the ecology, geology, and astronomical viewing opportunities provided by the Sky Islands in our region, and how best to protect these resources. These trips will serve as pilot projects for in a developing vision of a Sky School education program at MLSC.

Graduate Research Fellows